For most college students, spending their Saturday at a Shakespeare play probably wouldn’t be ideal. However, for a group of English majors, myself included, the prospect of seeing one of Shakespeare’s works come to life was more than enticing. So, on a Saturday in February, several of us ventured to the O’Reilly Theater in Pittsburgh to see Twelfth Night.
The plot: Twelfth Night tells the story of Viola, who is separated at sea from her twin brother, Sebastian. Disguising herself as a man named Cesario, she finds herself working for the Duke of Orsino in the land of Illyria. Orsino is in love with Olivia, a wealthy, beautiful woman, but she doesn’t return his affections. Cesario courts Olivia on Orsino’s behalf, but Olivia falls in love him instead (he is, remember, Viola dressed as a man). Complicating the love affairs even further, Viola falls in love with her lord Orsino. Later on, Sebastian comes to Illyria and reunites with Viola. I’ll stop here, so as to not give the ending away.
I had never seen a Shakespeare play before, so I didn’t have a clue what to expect. Upon walking into the theater, the backdrop, made of beautifully-crafted, picturesque houses, immediately caught my attention. When the play began and the actors entered, it was clear that we were all in for a good show. Every actor that came on stage played his or her character true to form, speaking each word with conviction and passion, which easily entertained the audience. The costumes were very impressive. Olivia wore an array of elegant, black dresses and the men, including Cesario, sported extravagant suits. Overall, Twelfth Night was a great production in every aspect.
Sir Toby, Olivia’s drunk uncle, and Malvolio, Olivia’s steward. They had the audience hysterically laughing more than a few times.
The two crowd-pleasers, and maybe most memorable characters, were Sir Toby, Olivia’s drunk uncle, and Malvolio, Olivia’s steward. They had the audience hysterically laughing more than a few times. Throughout the entire play, Sir Toby was always drunk and always hilarious, and loved to sing and dance. He enjoyed pranking people, and his abuse of Malvolio proved to be comedic relief. In one scene, Malvolio, a usually morose character, came out wearing yellow stockings, smiling and crowing about his happiness. He thought that wearing the absurd stockings would make Olivia love him, but the audience knew it was a prank orchestrated by Sir Toby and others. He was “most notoriously abused.”
Reading Shakespeare’s work is a vastly different experience than watching the play. When reading the play, the words can appear lifeless, and it’s more difficult to understand contexts. However, the play on stage was easy to follow. The ability to see the actors’ gestures and listen to their tones of voice gave me a deeper comprehension of not only the characters but also the language. As they say, Shakespeare was meant to be performed. What a treat.